St Andrews celebrates 80 years of The Byre

A scene from 'It'll be Alright on the Night'.
A scene from 'It'll be Alright on the Night'.

Touring theatre company Red Wine Productions joined forces with the St Andrews Playclub to present a great evening’s entertainment to support the Preservation Trust’s new museum exhibition ‘The Three Ages of the Byre Theatre’.

‘It’ll be Alright on the Night’ was designed especially for the museum space and starts downstairs where the audience are asked to imagine that they are backstage in the old Byre Theatre 30 minutes before a performance of AB Paterson’s famous golf comedy ‘The Open’.

Set in 1964 the first scene takes us back to a time when St Andrews had a train station, when MacArthur’s high teas were legendary and the Byre Theatre had reusable tickets.

This fun introduction allows the audience to experience backstage traditions and feel the mounting tension as the company attempts to make sure the show goes on even though they are missing two actors.

Sandra Skeldon captured the character of Sandy, a stage struck front-of-house volunteer, very well, showing her talent for cameo comedy roles.

Janet Richardson was very convincing as the bossy stage manager persuaded to tread the boards.

To enable the show to go on the director, Mr Trevor, played by Alan Tricker with his usual aplomb, needed little persuasion to play the part of the American golfer, Flan Izzard.

The action continued upstairs at the museum where a stage had been constructed, probably not much smaller than the original Byre stage.

Here we were treated to a cleverly condensed version of ‘The Open’.

This allowed the Playclub actors to display their versatility as they played actors developing roles on stage.

Downstairs we saw Brenda in the role of Belinda, an over-the-top West End actress on hard times.

In ‘The Open she turned a great comic performance of local worthy and battle axe, Mrs Burns.

Similarly, Forbes Terris had developed the charmingly camp character of Freddie who then gave us a perfect portrayal of the tippling Scottish caddie, the Louse.

Frank Quinault played Yorkshire actor Ernie who became southern golfer Bill Banks and June McLaren’s timid actress Jane surprised us by playing Rita Cole, the strong willed golf reporter.

Kenny Lindsay gave an assured performance as Victor, the young hero of the play and Moira Caton was convincing as Gloria Izzard. John Caton gave us a classic portrayal of Don Remington, the golf professional - no wonder as this is the sixth time he’s played the role!

It is a pity that this piece has such a restricted run because not only was it entertaining but added so much to the museum’s exhibition and credit must go to Samantha Bannerman who had the imagination and enthusiasm to introduce drama to the museum.

It is ironic that this celebration of the 80 years of the Byre Theatre comes at a time when the present Byre, built by the community, given to Fife Council and considered by many to be the best small theatre in Scotland, is likely to be handed over to St Andrews University as a teaching space and home to the music centre.